Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for November, 2010

Paragon

Monday, November 29th, 2010

On Saturday, I wanted to do a long road ride. However, I ended up sleeping later than I wanted, and due to the short days, I had to choose a shorter route. I decided to ride out to Paragon, IN, a route I’ve done a few times, but it has been a while. I ended up with 47.8 miles of riding in just under 4 hours. Here’s a map of the route.

It was a chilly ride, mostly in the 30s, with the temperature topping out at around 40 degrees.  Even with the shorter route, I decided to bring lights, since I wasn’t sure how long the ride would take me. I thought I would be back before dark, but I wanted to be prepared in case something unexpected came up.

I started off riding through town. Not my favorite way to start a ride, but sometimes it’s necessary. I rode through Cascades park, which is always beautiful. Most of the leaves have fallen now and I was struck by just how many of the trees lining the creek there are Sycamores. Their white branches are very noticeable without leaves.

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Traffic was incredibly light. I had just my own shadow to keep me company.

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This is, in my opinion, a sign which should never exist. It says “Bike Route End.” I understand that the signed route ends here, but it sends the wrong message entirely. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was on a signed route until I saw this sign. Ugh.

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After that I crossed State Road 37, and had a lovely ride along some rolling hills.

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In the middle of the next shot, in the distance, you can see State Road 37 coming down over the top of a hill.

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The road plunged into a valley and turned flat for several miles. Somewhere along here the road named changed to Bottom Road.

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Here I started a large group of crows who suddenly took flight and swooped overhead.

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I was struck by how scrappy the landscape appeared, below.

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In this area, the road never stays flat for long. In this case I enjoyed four miles of flat, easy cruising, before the road climbed up to a ridge. Here is part of the long climb.

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This “See Rock City Today” shack had me puzzled. Apparently, it’s a thing.

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The road alternated between hilly and flat, for a bit.

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Eventually, I enjoyed a long, fast descent from the ridgetop down into the river bottoms surrounding the West Fork of the White River — the same fork which I crossed the previous weekend in my ride to Gosport. In fact, now that I look at the map a bit more, I see that Paragon and Gosport are fairly close together, with a glorified crossroads called Whitaker in between. It might be fun to string all of these towns together in one ride.

The route had me riding an out-and-back stretch to the town of Paragon. 2/3 times I’ve ridden this route before, I had skipped the town stop. This time I decided to head into Paragon for a look-see, and possibly to top off the water bottles. This ended up being about a 5-mile flat round trip. It would have been easy, if not for the headwind across exposed flat fields on the way out.

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I stopped a small gas station/market in Paragon. I bought some water and as I was getting ready to leave, two kids rode up on BMX bikes, skidding to a stop. They asked where I had come from, and where I was going, and their eyes lit up when I told them I was riding around 50 miles today.  “Welcome to Paragon,” they told me. We then had something resembling the following exchange:

“Don’t your legs hurt?” they asked. I said they did when I first started riding long distances, but I just built up to longer rides. “Have you ever been mugged?” was the next question. No, I haven’t. “What would you do if someone mugged you on your bike?” “I don’t know, what would you do if someone mugged you on foot, or in a car?” “I know what I’d do,” the kids said confidently. “I would beat them up!” (making a punching motion). One of the kids then said, “I’ve beat someone up already. His name was Logan. He’s in high school. He’s a real chump!”

And with that, they headed into the store, and I rolled out. I kept my stops very brief during this ride, since I had limited time.

So now I was back on flat roads, this time with a wonderful tailwind. The return leg of the out-and-back stretch went by a lot faster.

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Once I rejoined the loop, I continued heading east for a while, and I held onto a solid tailwind for several more miles. There were some climbs during this section, but the tailwind still helped.

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Soon I crossed State Road 37 and found myself in Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

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Here’s a shot of my new light on the Bianchi, which also shows the Banjo Brothers handlebar bag well.

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I rode on and soon was on more familiar roads. I told Old 37 back to town. I was riding into the sun much of the way and it was difficult to see at times.

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I especially enjoyed the downhill just south of the Musgrave Orchards, which was a rare treat because I normally ride this stretch of road in the opposite direction.

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The sun was getting low in the sky. I was glad I had my lights, not so much because I really needed them, as because I didn’t feel any need to rush home before the sun set.

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I went through Cascades Park on my way home. It was interesting riding through it in both directions.

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I had an uneventful, surprisingly quiet ride through town, with very little traffic. I gazed over at just the right moment from the top of a hill and saw the sun setting over the horizon.

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Just a couple of minutes after this serene moment, a car passed me too close and the passengers tried to push me off the road! They actually stuck their arms out the window to try to push me over as they passed. Fortunately they failed, and I remained upright and unhurt, but I was shaken by this incident and it certainly broke the peaceful mood of the ride. I tried to get their license plate number, but I couldn’t read it clearly. The bastards got away!

So, it was a very enjoyable ride, until the last two miles or so. It’s hard not to let that one fleeting, terrible moment color my perception of the ride as a whole, but I have to concede that I enjoyed the ride overall. I hope nothing like that ever happens again …

Black Friday Mountain Biking — Sort of

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

I intended to do a lot of riding over Thanksgiving break. Sarah is out of town, so I figured I would get to ride a lot.

But, the weather was abysmal earlier in the week. I had Wednesday off, but it was in the 30s and raining all day. I considered riding, but cold rain is my least favorite condition to ride in. I’ll take snow over cold rain any day. So, I didn’t ride. I ended up doing contract work on my day off. And, working on my computer, trying to get it updated before I start school in January. Sad to spend the whole day working. Thanksgiving was a little warmer, in the 50s in fact, but it rained hard all day. So, I didn’t ride Thursday, either. I had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving with my family, preceded/followed by more work on my computer. Normally I enjoy working on computers, but this involved a lot of mundane tasks such as file transfers. No fun.

My friend Dave and I have a great Black Friday tradition: rather than going shopping like so many people, we head out to the woods for some mountain biking. Frequently, we seek out trails that are new to us. In the past we have ridden at Versailles State Park and in various areas of Hoosier National Forest. This year, we had planned to check out the trails in French Lick. We’ve heard they rival the Brown County State Park trails, and we were excited to find out for ourselves if they were really that great.

Unfortunately, it was in the 20s Thursday night. I say unfortunately because with all the rain we received, followed by the ground freezing, meant that the trails were an unrideable, muddy mess on Friday. Our plans were foiled!

Determined to ride, we came up with a new plan: riding on gravel roads in and and around Yellowwood State Forest. Dave suggested we explore some new roads off to the east of our usual riding area, so that is what we did. Our ride ended up being about 20 miles. Here’s a map of our route.

They are doing some strange work out at Yellowwood Lake. They have lowered the water level (again!) and are building a dam in the middle of the lake. Our theory is that this is going to help hold water in a marshy area that dries up in dry weather, but we will have to see what happens.

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I rode my 29er mountain bike. I had done some work on the brakes, which I managed to fix without breaking anything! For me, this is an impressive feat.

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Here is Dave’s awesome full-suspension Cannondale Prophet.

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It felt great to ride on some new gravel roads.

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The new roads only added about seven miles to our usual loop, but there were several significant climbs.

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A couple of sections were paved, but only briefly.

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We certainly could’ve used a beer about now. I was surprised to see that there is a Brewhouse out here. I didn’t know about the country club, either. Unfortunately the Brewhouse was not yet open.

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Back by the car, more evidence of the work they are doing at the lake.

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The giant pile of mud is all gunk they dredged out of the lake.

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So, our Black Friday Mountain Biking tradition lives on, albeit in a slightly different form. We are still itching to try the French Lick trails. Hopefully the trail conditions will improve and we can make it down there some weekend in the near future.

Foggy ride to Gosport

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Sarah had to work on Saturday. I certainly don’t enjoy it when she has to work overtime, but her schedule gave me a perfect opportunity to get out for a ride. I planned a 57-mile route, based loosely on a local club route, that would take me northwest of Bloomington, up to the small town of Gosport. This route looked particularly interesting because once away from town, it would involve some new roads, and some other roads I hadn’t ridden on for several years. I feel I’ve had a shortage of new roads lately, so I was looking forward to branching out a bit. Here’s a map of my route.

Saturday morning brought a big surprise, in the form of very thick fog. I think fog is gorgeous, and I love riding in it, so I was thrilled!

I checked the forecast for the day — at that time, it was 34 degrees, with a predicted high for the day of 60. That large temperature range is hard to dress for, so I made my best guess and rolled out into the fog, a little chilly, but figuring the day would warm up quickly. The roads were wet — I’m not sure if it had rained overnight, or if they were wet with heavy dew or condensation. Either way, the atmosphere was thick and beautiful, and it felt like riding in rain, without actually getting rained on.

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The roads were quiet, with only a few cars. My main concern when riding in fog is being seen by cars, so I wore bright colors and had lights flashing the entire time. The lack of traffic eased my concerns. The scenery was beautiful basically the entire ride.

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I rode through Ellettsville, the closest town northeast of Bloomington. I meant to take some photos as I rode through town, but there was just enough traffic that I had to stay focused on riding. I rode past Bybee Stone Company, one of the many limestone companies in this area.

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I stopped for a break by a creek. I was thinking the fog would clear up within about an hour or so, but I was an hour into the ride, and the fog was showing no signs of lifting. And, the temperature didn’t seem to have risen at all. I didn’t rest long; the longer I stood there, the colder I felt.

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I turned onto Red Hill Road. I was a little nervous about this one because most roads with “hill” in the name earn the name by having quite a large hill. But Red Hill Road had just a mild climb followed by a surprisingly flat section.

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The road went through a few ups and downs.

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I stopped by a field for a brief break.

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If the temperature had risen at all at this point, I couldn’t detect it. I felt a little chilly, but within reason. One thing riding year-round does for you is lower your expectations of comfort. You can’t ride in conditions like these and expect to be 100% comfortable. You have to be willing to accept being a little chilly, or overly warm. Personally, I’ll almost always err on the cool side.

Knee warmers, wool baselayer, arm warmers, jersey, and vest kept me warm enough, but just barely. My ears were still covered. Normally I uncover my ears around 40 degrees, but it was hard to gauge the actual temperature. The very high humidity made it feel chillier.

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The road dipped down toward Stinesville.

I had ridden through Stinesville a couple of times before. Normally it feels quaint, but on this day, with the fog, it took on a creepy ambiance.  Run-down shacks looked like something out of a horror movie, in the fog.

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I rode directly through Stinesville and continued riding. I reached an interesting intersection.

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I was headed up the hill to the left, but the gravel road on the right sure looked inviting. I might have to return to explore this area. A quick check of Google Maps tells me that the road on the right may just dead end, but it sure looks like it would be fun to explore.

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There was a good climb on Texas Ridge Road, but then it was flat ridgetop riding for a bit, with a river down to my right.

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I dropped down by the river, the West Fork of the White River, and found this cool restored Ferry Bridge. It had been blocked off to motor vehicles. I took a few minutes to explore.

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I could see down the river to the bridge that carried motor vehicle traffic. It had only a fraction of the character of this bridge.

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I found another spot that I thought would have been fun to explore, but didn’t want to take the road bike on this potentially muddy detour. A few minutes later I determined that this dirt road just went through and connected to the main road probably less than 1/4 mile away. Oh well.

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I got back on the road and crossed the newer bridge, the Phillip F. Rogers Memorial Bridge. From there, I had a nice view back to the older bridge.

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After a little flat riding and a climb or two, I found myself in Gosport.

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I found Gosport quaint. According to Wikipedia, it has an area of 0.4 square miles. A small town on top of a hill. Adorable!

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I made my way over to Casey’s General Store. I stocked up on water and also bought a donut and a cup of coffee. The locals gave me some weird looks, but the cashier was very kind to me. After two hours of riding through 40-degree fog, the coffee, while it was merely run-of-the-mill gas station coffee, tasted absolutely divine. The caffeine was most welcome, as well.

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I headed out and my hands felt absolutely freezing. I was wondering if they would ever warm up. I passed an establishment which claimed to have the “Coldest Beer in Owen County.” Another tempting stop, but I pressed on.

I took a meandering path through Gosport, so I could get a bit more of a sense of the place.

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You can’t really read it, but the sign below is for the Gosport Tavern. Someday I have to go back to Gosport and visit this place.

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On my way out of town, I found Goss Road. This is significant as there are Gosses in my family. I believe there are other Gosses in the area. I’m not sure if there’s any relation, but it’s a rather unusual name, and it’s always interesting to find any reference to it.

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Now it was time to head back toward Bloomington. My return trip would be slightly longer and significantly hillier. It took a while, but my hands eventually did warm back up again. But not until I reached a large climb.

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At one point, the road flattened out for a little while. Normally, during a hilly ride, this would be a welcome change, but now the headwind became a real factor. It wasn’t unbearable, but it did slow me down considerably, in this flat, open space.

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It’s hard to tell here, but there were dozens of birds sitting in these power lines, many of which took flight as I rode past.

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Below we have McCormick’s Creek. It’s hard to believe that this tiny thing feeds a beautiful waterfall in McCormick’s Creek State Park (see some of my past shots of the waterfall here).

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For the first time in the entire ride, I started to see a couple of small breaks in the clouds. You can see right behind the tree below a small bright spot.

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The sun was finally starting to burn away the clouds. I thought I felt the air warming up slightly, as well.

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The ride remained hilly … but beautiful.

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Finally, the sun burned through the clouds.

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I kept seeing more and more beautiful ridgetop views.

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The rest of the ride is sort of a blur, but it involved a number of hills — including an especially difficult one on Garrison Chapel Road — a little more sun, and slightly warmer temperatures.

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This last shot was taken on That Road. As you can see it’s fairly hilly — but it’s fast riding in this direction. It was a real pain climbing up this hill first thing in the morning.

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It never warmed up past 50 degrees. By the end of the ride the only layer I had shed was my ear covering. No complaints here. I love riding in cooler weather.

The fog made for an incredible, memorable ride, with beautiful scenery and very little traffic overall. Gosport definitely warrants a return trip, at some point. Hopefully this week will be a great one for riding, with some time off work.

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